The upper crust...

Voted one of the three top wellness hotels in the world this year, the Ritz-Carlton Dubai offers 1,000 feet of prime beachfront on Dubai's Jumeirah Beach, a range of top quality facilities and service to match.

The 138-room hotel has also won accolades as the 'best overseas hotel in the incentive travel category' by the meeting and incentive travel industry awards in the UK and 'highly commended best new Gulf hotel' from Hotel Intelligence magazine.

Amenities include twice daily maid service, bars refreshed twice daily, fresh hot and cold towels on arrival, complimentary welcome drink, complimentary fruit bowl and mineral water on arrival.

The Ritz-Carlton club service offers private 24-hour lounge, private conference room, butler service and club concierge.

Restaurants and bars include La Baie, a 114-seater, French-style seafood outlet; Splendido offering Mediterranean specialties, the poolside Gulf Pavilion and the Library and Cigar Room.

Sports facilities include four floodlit tennis courts, two squash courts, fitness centre, ladies only fitness centre and toning rooms, aerobics studio, children's playroom with special kiddies' programmes, relaxation suite with sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi, three swimming pools, scuba diving, water skiing, wake boarding, windsurfing, banana boat rides, snorkeling, knee boarding, kayaking, deep see fishing trips and paddle boats.

The Ritz-Carlton spa has a total of eight treatment rooms with variety of Oriental and Far Eastern therapeutic techniques and two hydrotherapy rooms, two body treatment rooms, three facial and massage rooms, ladies' and gents' hairdressing salons, beauty treatment rooms and VIP suite for totally private treatments.

TTN's JONNA SIMON talks to general manager James J Horsman to find out what makes Ritz-Carlton the exclusive resort it is:

Q: Your hotel is on the beach, of course, but what other facilities would you say qualifies The Ritz-Carlton Dubai as a resort?

A: We need to define what a resort is. It does not necessarily have to be located on a beach - it could be in mountains like a ski resort for instance.

Generally speaking a resort is a place of relaxation, pampering, exclusivity, service and luxury. Looking at The Ritz-Carlton Dubai - yes, we have a beach and beautiful landscaping, but more importantly, guests are in an environment, where they have access to a world-class spa, receive service at a level second to none, can enjoy fine dining.

We have only 138 rooms, but we have 360 staff looking after our guests, our clients expect this. We cater to the upper five per cent of the travellers around the world.

What makes The Ritz-Carlton Dubai unique is the exclusiveness, the service and the wonderful amenities.

Q: It is well-known that The Ritz-Carlton clientele comes from the very upper edge of the upmarket travelling segment, but in the main, where do they actually come from geographically?

A: From a demographic viewpoint, our guests mainly come from Germany, the UK and Switzerland. We have also seen a substantial increase in visitors from Scandinavia and the Netherlands as well as from Japan.

Q: The Gallery at La Baie has opened recently - what exactly is that?

A: It is a unique dining experience with an art gallery, wonderful wine bar and music. Basically what we are doing is, we are going to highlight the works of artists resident in Dubai and we are also making arrangements with art galleries in London, hoping to bring over artworks from England. After that we are going to try to bring works by other European artists.

It is an opportunity for our guests and residents of Dubai to enjoy not just a great meal and ambience, but also watch works of art, which will be for sale.

The Gallery will have live demonstrations by artists and the exhibitions will be ever-changing.

Q: We are now approaching the busy season in Dubai - what kind of a summer season has it been for the hotel?

A: It has been a very satisfactory season, we were very pleased with how the summer turned out for the hotel. We saw growth in our market share again this summer.

We are at variance with some of the other 5-star hotels in Dubai. They mostly go after a different clientele for the winter season than during the summer months, we do have certain value-added packages in the summer, but we do not go after a different market segment in the summer and we will never do that.

Therefore, we do not attain the occupancy rates of some of our competitors, but we maintain the integrity of our product.

Q: Do you think the summer rates will eventually be as high as other times of the year, as Dubai becomes more popular as a business and vacation destination?

A: The summer rates in Dubai will always be tremendous value for money. I believe there will always be two types of visitors to Dubai. Those who come in the main season and those who come for the value-added packages.

For guests who come to spend New Year's Eve at the Ritz-Carlton and spend two weeks well into January, I could offer them a free first class airline ticket or a complimentary guest room but they would not come here in the summer, they will probably go to their villa in France or wherever.

These guests travel around six times a year and is the market segment we cater to and we will always give the same value and standards. So, no, I do not think we will see the summer and winter rates becoming the same.

Q: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Group is famous for service and its properties - what would you say are becoming traditions of Dubai's Ritz-Carlton?

A: Service is synonymous with the name Ritz-Carlton - it is the main commodity we sell to our clients.

Talking about what the legacy of the Ritz-Carlton Dubai will be - you can take the reputation of the group for service and multiply that by 10, that is what guests receive here.

We are very fortunate to have a team of staff, who provide incredible service and that is not just service to the standards prevalent in the Gulf, but based on the standards we have within our organisation.

Q: The Palm Islands and other future projects by the Dubai Government indicate more competition for the already established top hotels, I would assume. How do you see the future of the tourism and conference business in Dubai?

A: Providing there is stability in the region, I look at it being very promising. Dubai offers the best of all worlds as a destination.

It is a medium-haul distance from Europe, has a wonderful climate most of the year and an infrastructure from a technological standpoint as good as anywhere in the world.

Dubai has a government that is very positive towards the conference market, tourism, technology and business and that must not be underestimated. Dubai also has a high concentration of very good hotels.

I think that the way the government is marketing Dubai is excellent and I think, Dubai has a very bright and prosperous future.

Q. It has been said that training is the secret of success in the multicultural environment of Dubai. Would you agree this is the case for your hotel as well?

A: It is an important aspect of a hotel's success, but training by itself is not the answer. First of all, you have to select the right candidate, the right person for the particular job.

You look for somebody, who has the right traits from a corporate culture viewpoint and then you orient them to your culture, then you train, coach and develop.